Usually I see reading as a form of escapism, not quite so much with this book…
You see, it’s set in Edinburgh – where I live – and it’s set in the aftermath of a pandemic which has swept across the world. There are restrictions on people’s movements and scientists are still working on a way to stop the continued spread of The Virus as it’s known. Sound familiar? Well, don’t worry if you are thinking that this is all too close to home right now and you don’t fancy reading about a fictional pandemic while there’s a real one happening in real life. This book doesn’t focus on the Virus but on the work of North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team. The team become caught up in an investigation where it seems that they, and all public servants, are at risk from an undercover agent who is threatening to shoot a civil servant each day. With a reclusive former prog-rock musician and two students with rather strange views all missing and in the sights in the team, this shapes up into a engaging thriller.
This is the 4th book in the series (5th if you include an e-book only short story) but you can easily read it as a standalone. Each book focuses on a different crime but features the same characters. There is enough back story for you to learn a bit about the characters. I have to say that it was a delight to read more about Bernard and Mona and their colleagues again. They are such an entertaining group of people to read about. Lesley Kelly’s wit shines through the book. Even though, as the title suggests, there is murder, there is plenty to make you laugh in the book as well, not least the office politics. As a crime novel, it is well plotted, perfectly paced and a gripping read.
Putting aside the crime aspect of the novel, the main work of the HET is tracking down people who have missed their mandatory monthly health check. It was interesting to read this book now not purely as fiction but as, to an extent, reality. There were so many things which now ring true and many things which you can imagine will become the norm of the future. Mona notes, like many of us do now, that “some people were so cavalier with their own health that she wondered if they had actually noticed that a million people had died in Britain from the Virus.” There are also conspiracy theories some of which I’ve certainly come across on the internet such as the Virus being man-made and deliberately released. No mention of toilet roll and flour shortages though… 😀
I do hope that book 5 is the one with the happy ending where the Virus is completely under control, people can meet with and hug friends and family again, it’s not a stressful situation to go shopping and the Health Enforcement Team is disbanded. Then again, I’m rather fond of Bernard and Mona so I’d be sad not to read about them again. Lesley Kelly certainly put them in some dangerous situations again in this book which had my heart in my mouth! I was fearful for Mona’s safety and Bernard has a very interesting personal situation to deal with. I do hope the author is a littler gentler on them in the next book. Murder at the Music Factory is another excellent, entertaining addition to the Health of Strangers series and I can’t wait to read the next one!
My thanks to Sandstone Press for sending me an early copy of the book for review. Murder at the Music Factory is available now as an ebook and in paperback format. You will find buying options on the Sandstone website here: Murder at the Music Factory
From the back of the book
The body of Paul Shore toppled onto him, a stream of blood pooling around them on the concrete. Bernard lay back and waited to see if he too was going to die.
An undercover agent gone rogue is threatening to shoot a civil servant a day. As panic reigns, the Health Enforcement Team race against time to track him down – before someone turns the gun on them.
About the author
Lesley Kelly has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won a number of writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story award in 2008. Her first novel, A Fine House in Trinity, was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize. Her latest novel, The Health of Strangers, is the first in a series of thrillers.
You can find out more about Lesley and her writing on her website.